CHARLESTON, W.Va. — The last living Medal of Honor recipient in West Virginia celebrated the completion of another great year Tuesday night.
Family, friends and state officials joined together in Charleston to celebrate the 90th birthday of Hershel Woodrow “Woody” Williams.
“You can never meet a better person or an easier guy to get along with than Woody Williams,” said retired Major General Allen Tackett.
Williams, a native of Fairmont, started his career as a truck driver and a taxi driver, but soon would find his place in the United States Marine Corps in 1943. Almost two years later on Feb. 21, 1945, Williams found himself landing on Iwo Jima during World War II.
It was during that battle Williams distinguished himself by quickly volunteering to go ahead of American tanks, trying to open a lane for infantry, to attempt the reduction of devastating machine gun fire from unyielding positions.
For his actions in the Battle of Iwo Jima, President Harry S. Truman on October 5, 1945 awarded Williams with the Medal of Honor. Since that day, Williams has proudly worn that medal, but not for himself.
“He wears it for those who did not come back and in recognition of truly the greatest generation,” said retired Lt. Col. Vic Ryan of the U.S. Marine Corp.
After retiring in 1969 from the U.S. Marine Corp, Williams began traveling around the country and the world as an advocate for veterans and now at 90 years old he continues to go strong.
“He just continues to represent our nation and what the military service is about and their couldn’t be anybody that has represented our soldiers and the Marine Corp any better than Woody Williams,” said Tackett.
Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin and Secretary of State Natalie Tennant took time to honor Williams at his party. Ryan said Williams is truly a great American soldier.
“He is all about honor, courage and commitment and he is all about service, they say service to others equals your rewards in life, service to others is his life,” he said.
In 1965, Williams received West Virginia’s Distinguished Service Medal. In 1967, he was honored by the Veteran’s Administration with the Vietnam Service Medal for service as a civilian counselor to the armed forces.